NCSBA Legislative Update – December 4, 2020

NCSBA Legislative Update – December 4, 2020

State Board of Education

December Monthly Meeting

The SBE met for its monthly meeting on December 2 and 3. Board members were presented with the following:

DHHS COVID-19 Response Update: A majority of the DHHS presentation consisted of plans for the antigen testing pilot for K-12 students and staff. The State is planning to receive approximately 3.1 million antigen tests from the federal government by the end of 2020. The antigen tests are used for more rapid diagnosis of active infections, and the goal of the pilot is to “allow more ready districts to provide important lessons-learned that can inform future plans.” K-12 schools are among the priority populations for use of the tests, and “interested public schools or districts must submit an application to their local health department expressing their capacity to participate in the pilot.” To apply for the K-12 COVID-19 antigen testing pilot, click here. If applicants have questions about the pilot, contact StrongSchoolsNC@dhhs.nc.gov with the subject line “COVID Testing Pilot Question”.

Additionally, DHHS staff reported a total of 31 currently active K-12 COVID-19 clusters, of which 13 are in traditional public schools. The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit will soon be updated according to the most recent executive order that requires masks for children ages five and up and eliminates the exception for strenuous exercise. DHHS is also creating a new resource: Guidance for Specials and Extracurriculars (e.g., music/band, choir, recess). DHHS staff stated that these resources will be released on Friday, December 4. Click here to access DHHS K-12 COVID-19 Resources.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Update: Board members heard a presentation from DPI staff concerning fall end-of-course (EOC) and career and technical education (CTE) testing that led to much discussion and confusion concerning:

  1. The federal requirement to have at least 95% student participation on EOC and CTE exams
  2. The requirement to administer these exams in person
  3. The State requirement that EOC and CTE exam scores count as 20% of a student’s final grade

The SBE’s attorney confirmed that the 20% rule is still in effect, and while a proposed change can be made, the process is complicated. Chairman Eric Davis stated that the Board should prioritize seeking a federal waiver for the 95% testing participation requirement, and Vice Chair Alan Duncan added that while it might not be ideal, students can wait as late as June 2021 to take fall semester EOC and CTE exams in person. This agenda item was for discussion only and will return before the Board in January. Click here for an article highlighting education leaders’ concerns about these testing requirements.

2020-2021 Legislative and Budget Priorities: The SBE revisited the legislative and budget priorities to discuss and reach a consensus on what is most important for this upcoming year. Following Board member input and discussion, Vice Chair Duncan summarized the top areas supported my Board members:

  1. Enhancing the teacher pipeline, as well as the principal pipeline
  2. Support for student social and emotional health
  3. Remediation efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., science of reading, school turnaround, exceptional children, mental health)
  4. Connecting students with post-secondary opportunities

DPI staff will take this input from Board members and place it into funding buckets that are tied to the SBE’s strategic plan. The process will continue at the January meeting.

2019-2020 State of the Teaching Profession Report: The following are key takeaways from the Report that will be submitted to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by December 15, 2020:

  • The 2019-2020 teacher attrition rate has decreased since 2017-2018 from 8.1% to 7.5% but remained the same as it was in 2018-2019
  • The teacher vacancy rate decreased from 2.8% on the first day of the school year to 1.7% on the 40th day – a 65% reduction
  • The highest vacancy rates are in core subjects in elementary grades (e.g., reading, math, science, social studies) – this is also the largest group of teachers in the State

The SBE also heard from Superintendent-Elect Catherine Truitt regarding her first wave of new hires for DPI. To read more about the Board’s welcome of Superintendent-Elect Truitt and her staff announcements, click here.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

SBE Executive Committee Meeting

On Thursday, November 12 the Executive Committee of the SBE met to approve two additional inaugural cohort districts for the NC Education Corps: Wake County Public School System and Durham Public Schools. The Executive Committee had previously approved 17 inaugural cohort districts for the NCEC on November 2.

The NCEC was launched with the collaboration of the SBE, the Office of the Governor, and former State Superintendent Mike Ward. NCEC’s mission is to help address the immediate challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its members will primarily serve as tutors and mentors addressing student achievement/engagement and learning loss. While Wake and Durham are not categorized as Tier 1 or 2 like the previously approved 17 districts, the focus of NCEC in these two districts will be on schools with significant proportions of low-income students. It was also stated that Wake and Durham will benefit the NCEC by providing recruits who can serve in nearby districts.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

State Audit of DPI COVID-19 Funds

On Wednesday, December 2, the Office of the State Auditor released an audit of Coronavirus Relief Funds that were allocated to DPI from the 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act. The audit found the following:

  1. $31 million of coronavirus relief funds were distributed for summer learning program without a method to ensure student ability was improved.
  2. $37 million of coronavirus relief funds were distributed for nutrition services without establishing a method to measure results.
  3. DPI distributed approximately $76 million but did not monitor spending.

Click here for the audit report.

DPI responded to each finding of the audit:

  1. DPI agreed with the first finding, stating that the measurement tool for student ability was terminated by the SBE. “Any effort to measure the impact now simply cannot be made based on quantifiable, verifiable information.”
  2. DPI disagreed with the second finding, stating that “These funds were meant to ensure children usually fed at school, and even those who weren’t, would not go hungry…Additional requirements that some would demand would have likely risked that already vulnerable children across NC would have gone hungry.”
  3. DPI disagreed with the third finding, stating that “Much of the coronavirus relief funds in question are funding programs that run through the end of December. When these programs are complete, as per NC statutory language, DPI will compile a report for the General Assembly to review.”

Click here for DPI’s response to the audit.

Click here for an article on the audit and DPI response.

 

Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee (JLEOC) held its final meeting of 2020 on Tuesday, December 1 to approve their report to the 2021 General Assembly and to receive answers from DPI to previously asked Committee questions.

The JLEOC Committee Report includes the following two draft bills:

  1. Student Digital Learning Access – Requires the SBE to “establish and maintain an electronic dashboard to publicly display information related to digital learning.” The dashboard will include information on digital devices available to students inside and outside of school and out-of-school connectivity. Public school units will need to annually supply this information to the SBE by November 15. The bill further requires DPI and the Department of Information Technology to “conduct a statewide assessment of data related to out-of-school internet and device access for North Carolina elementary and secondary students obtained during the physical school closure and at-home learning that occurred due to COVID-19 during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.”
  2. Report on K-12 Computer Science Data – Requires the SBE to annually report by September 15 on participation in computer science courses. The report will include the number of computer science teachers, the computer science courses offered, the number of students enrolled in each course, the number of computer science students by grade level, and social/economic details of computer science students.

Dr. David Stegall, DPI Deputy Superintendent of Innovation, and Freebird McKinney, SBE Director of Legislative and Community Affairs, responded to the Committee’s questions about remote teaching and learning (presentation and written response). Throughout the presentation references were made to the NCSBA spreadsheet that tracks what plan each school district is operating under (see the Reopening of Public Schools section below). The following are key statistics from their presentation:

  • On average, 36% of students are learning all virtual. (This includes students in Plan C and those that chose to attend virtual academies in Plans A & B districts.)
  • Less than 1% of students are unaccounted for in NC’s public schools.
  • On average, 53% of students who typically qualify for free and reduced lunch regularly receive meals.
  • As of October 31, 2020, 47% of federal COVID-19 funds had been expended by school districts.
  • Month 2 Average Daily Membership declined 3.36% from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021, while Month 2 Average Daily Attendance declined .39% for the same period.

Click here and here for articles summarizing the meeting and Committee discussion.

 

House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice

On Wednesday, November 18 the House Select Committee discussed a draft of their report. Public comment on the report was due by December 2, a revised draft will be sent to members by December 7, and the next meeting is December 14. Below are sections of the report relevant to public schools.

Recommendation 12: Fund a Pilot Program for Student Law Enforcement Career Exploration

The Committee recommends that the General Assembly enact legislation creating and funding a pilot program for high school students to explore law enforcement careers, in at least one location. The Committee recommends that the General Assembly allow the NC Sheriffs’ Association to develop and administer the pilot program in consultation with DPI.

Recommendation 14: Continue to Consider Strategies to Improve Relations Between Law Enforcement and the Community

The Committee recommends that the General Assembly continue to study and consider additional strategies to improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The Committee recommends that the General Assembly further explore the following suggested strategies, which were received by the Committee but were unable to be fully examined due to time constraints:

  • Requiring that officers educate drivers’ education classes on traffic stops
  • Eliminating the use of law enforcement for intervention in truancy
  • Requiring the compilation and report of referrals from schools and school resource officers to juvenile justice
  • Eliminating school resource officers

 

Reopening of Public Schools

NCSBA has been maintaining a chart containing each LEA’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Click here to access the chart.

 

2020 Statewide Facility Needs Survey
Every five years school districts are required to submit their Facility Needs Survey (FNS). The survey and guidance are available on the DPI School Planning websiteThe deadline to submit the completed survey is January 8, 2021. Questions about the 2020 FNS should be directed to Nathan Maune, AIA (School Planning Section Chief), via email: nathan.maune@dpi.nc.gov.

 

 

 

Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6686

Bruce Mildwurf
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6692

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6677

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6688

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – December 4, 2020